AS the United States and its allies mull military intervention in North Korea’s aggressive weapons testing, a history expert says the cost of a potentially catastrophic war has largely been ignored.
Looking at the scenario of a unification between North and South Korea following the end to a long-lasting conflict, Australian National University researcher Leonid Petrov said the process would take at least a decade.
He said the historic move to unify the two countries would cost around US$3 trillion to allow the two populations to integrate, as quoted in The Independent (via news.com.au).
“Both countries have been isolated from each other, they speak different dialects, understand the world differently.”
The academician warned North Koreans would find it difficult to assimilate with their Southern neighbour’s norms and face discrimination by authorities who would treat them as “second class citizens”.
“South Korea doesn’t need its impoverished, aggressive, poorly educated brothers to inundate it,” he said.
In the event of supreme leader Kim Jong Un’s removal, experts have said the dictator would likely seek refuge in either China, Russia or South America.
The result of that outcome, the experts said, pointed to the likely reunification between North and South Korea – an idea that has been stalled since 2008.
The potential war and likely scenarios would leave the North’s 30 million population at risk of more uncertainty and possible exploitation, despite having long suffered under a brutal regime.
Petrov said this was because South Korea’s bleak economic outlook could lead to it to seek cheap labour.
Last year, US-based Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs said the US government had spent or obligated US$4.8 trillion on the wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq.
Among others, the figure included direct Congressional war appropriations, war-related increases to the Pentagon base budget, veterans care and disability, increases in the homeland security budget and interest payments on direct war borrowing.
The costs also consisted of foreign assistance spending and estimated future obligations for veterans’ care.
“This total omits many other expenses, such as the macroeconomic costs to the US economy; the opportunity costs of not investing war dollars in alternative sectors; future interest on war borrowing; and local government and private war costs,” the institute said in an article.
The institute pointed out current wars have been paid for almost entirely by borrowing.
“This borrowing has raised the US budget deficit, increased the national debt, and had other macroeconomic effects, such as raising consumer interest rates.”
It said unless the US immediately repays the money borrowed for war, there will also be future interest payments. It also estimated interest payments could total over US$7.9 trillion by 2053.
The institute said federal war costs excluded billions of dollars of state, municipal, and private war costs across the country. This involved dollars spent on services for returned veterans and their families, in addition to local homeland security efforts.